There's no such thing as a religious experience essay

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  • Created by: G
  • Created on: 01-06-14 19:42

The idea of a God is a debatable concept that has no definite answer, to different people the idea is either a conceivable one or one that is too farfetched to comprehend. But a religious experience is different because it contains the authority to prove or change someone’s believes, a bad religious experience could make you question everything you once believed in where as a good religious experience could make you believe in something you didn’t realise existed. Generally the term religious experience is very widespread with people all over the world claiming to have experienced a religious act. Although widespread, a religious experience can be split into three main experiences, a mystical experience, a numinous experience and a corporate experience. A mystical experience is an experience used to describe the experience of a direct contact or oneness with God, a numinous experience is used to describe awe and wonder in the presence of God and a corporate experience issued to describe religious experiences that happen to a number of people in the same location. Alternative to these three types of experiences, a religious experience can be experienced through visions, voices, conversion experiences and miracles. But is it possible to prove or disprove a religious experience?

In order to answer the question as to whether a religious experience exists, a key question to address is, are all religious experiences numinous? A numinous experience is one that requires the presence of an almighty and transcendent God that performs miracles of admiration, in other words an authority figure that people look up to and worship. It also gives the sense that he is more powerful than us who many people feel when they enter a church or a cathedral. It is in this context that most numinous experiences appear in religious text such as the Bible. There are examples in the Bible of people doing ordinary things but suddenly become aware of an all powerful being- God. An example would be when Moses was out tending to his father-in-law's sheep, when he suddenly saw a burning bush from which God spoke to him (Exodus 3:1-4).

William James was a philosopher who aimed to research the various types of religious experience in his book The varieties of Religious Experience: a study in human nature. James believes that the religious experience is at the heart of the religion and those things that you do such as following religious teachings and going to church are secondary and are just a way to support the religious experience you’ve had. He explains that mystical religious experiences are when God reveals himself to you directly and you feel a sense of oneness or an ultimate reality. In reference to conversion (which causes someone to change beliefs) James argued that as with all religious experiences the truth can be found in the results. This means that when people convert and change themselves within religion this act can show evidence in favour of spiritual claims. James identified four


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